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Digital Nomads and Webpreneurs: Combining Work and Travel




Photography: Annie Mole.

Have you ever thought what the ultimate telecommute might mean to you? Not the kind of telecommute where you work at home, but rather the kind where you travel the world and work wherever you can.

You probably already know the story: working from home not only gives you freedom of work schedule but can save you money in the long-term, from savings on commuting costs. But what if you could go one step further and make the world your home – anywhere you wanted? How adventurous are you? Could you live a long-term work and travel lifestyle? There are people already doing this.

The Internet and other technologies have made web working possible, and now people are pushing the envelope to become Nomadic Webpreneurs – running an online-based business from wherever they can get an Internet connection. Freelance web working, in particular, gives you the freedom to work from anywhere.

[Note: “online-based” does not mean that there’s no offline component. It merely means that part of your operations is online, to source out clients or receive payment or to promote yourself.]

Ideal Conditions for Being a Nomadic Entrepreneur

Nomadic professionals have always existed, but technology has made it even easier for many more people to enjoy a work and travel lifestyle. This lifestyle is no longer limited to the jetset, ambassadors and politicians, athletes, authors, various other celebrities, travel writers and the odd business person.

With Internet access becoming so readily available, pretty much anyone can not only become a nomadic web worker but even a nomadic entrepreneur – running a web business online. All you need to satisfy are a few simple conditions:

1. Choose work that you can delivered remotely. Online freelancers have an ideal opportunity, since all of their work tends to be delivered online.

2. Choose suitable countries. Obviously, you’re going to want to pick where you’ll be staying as part of your traveling. You might choose to stay a few months here, a few months there, or put down roots for longer periods. If you find some place that you really enjoy, you might even settle down and become an expat (ex-patriate) – in which case you’re back to just being a work-at-home freelancer. When picking out host countries for your travels, besides picking somewhere safe, consider the following suggestions:

  1. Desire. Countries you’ve wanted to visit. Maybe you have relatives or friends somewhere, want to see the sights of a country, or have work opportunities. (If the latter, keep in mind that you might need to get a work VISA.)
  2. No VISA requirement. Countries with long-term non-VISA visitation waivers. Many countries let you stay up to six months (180 days) without requiring a VISA (assuming you can convince customs officials you’re not going to be “a burden on the system.” If you’re working solely on your computer, there may not be an issues.If your work requires some stability of location, you could spend 3-6 months at a time per country. (Check your home country’s rules for taxes, health care, etc., as there might be minimum residency requirements to remain eligible for certain services or deductions.)
  3. Favorable exchange rate. If you have savings in your home currency and the exchange rate of the country you’re heading for is favorable, then you can go a lot longer than usual with your funds. In other words, you might take some time out to actually sightsee instead of always working.
  4. Affordable, accessible Internet. Since without an Internet connection, you can’t be a nomadic webpreneur, this is an important condition to satisfy.
  5. Countries with access to PayPal. PayPal is not available everywhere, though there are other online payment processing services. Just make sure that your host country’s banking system gives you access to your money through instant teller machines. Alternatives:
    1. Countries that allow visitors to have a temporary bank account.
    2. A means of depositing client payments into your bank account while out of country. Maybe you can have a friend or relative back home transfer monies into your account (from PayPal, etc.) for you.

3. Have the right tools.
Aside from the prerequisite passport, ID, insurance and various official documents, nomadic web workers and webpreneurs (i.e., Digital Nomads) are enabled by a number of tools and services, most of which are web-based or are gadgets:

  1. Gadgets: cell phones, laptops/ notebooks/ netbooks, universal chargers. If you’re adventuring in other countries (not just working), you might want to add a few more items to your gadget list: GPS device, still and/or video camera, media player. Something worth noting is that some hotels are RFiD-enabled. That is, if you have an NFS-enabled cell phone in certain European and Asian countries, the key for your hotel room actually becomes a numeric code that’s downloaded to your cell phone, once you pay for your room.
  2. Wi-fi or some ready means of getting an Internet connection.
  3. Web services. E.g., web-based applications and services such as payment processors (PayPal) and banking, invoicing, travel planners.
  4. Membership in social networks. It does get lonely out there sometimes, especially if you’re traveling alone. Your social network “friends” can keep you up to date on goings on as well as be a sounding board.
  5. Co-working offices. If you don’t/ cannot work from where you are living, consider a co-working office. If you can’t find one, then you might have to resort to cafes, libraries, universities/ colleges. Or rent.
  6. Cloud services/ applications/ technology. “Cloud technology” refers collectively to applications and web services that allow web workers to run software in a web browser and to store documents “online”. An example is Flickr, which lets you post your images online. Another is Google Docs and Spreadsheets, which gives you desktop application functionality in a web browser. So even if you do not have your laptop with you, as long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your documents.

Profiles of Nomadic Entrepreneurs/ Digital Nomads

screensnap digitalnomads.com

While you muse over this approach to work and life, keep in mind that as a digital nomad, you’re not bound to having to travel the world. Some nomads use the lifestyle to see the country they live in, while maintaining a career to pay the bills. However, should you want to start traveling, this lifestyle allows for the possibility for long periods away from home.

If you’re interested in how others are living the Digital Nomad lifestyle, a great motivator is the Nomad Stories category on the Digital Nomads website. Some of these posts have embedded videos where digital nomad personalities talk about how they’ve maintained their lifestyle, made a living, etc. Pay particular attention to the interviews with Treehugger’s founder, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith and New Media expert Julia Allison.



5 Comments

  1. Travis King Says:

    Great stuff as usual Raj!

    One question I have for Digital Nomads revolves around banking. I know Collis Ta'eed recommends banking at an internationally available bank like HSBC, but whenever I travel I just take out money from my bank account back home using a teller machine that has Interac.

    So, if I have money being deposited in my home bank account, is there any benefit to an account where I'm visiting?

  2. Soultravelers3 Says:

    What a great post and perfect timing as I think the downturn in 2009 will increase the numbers of digital nomads that will be traveling.

    We are digital nomads who have been traveling the world for the last 3 years as a 3 laptop family on an open ended world tour. It has been absolutely fabulous and I wish more people knew how easy, cheap and enriching this experience can be.

    This is our 3rd winter in a 15th century village in southern Spain where we have cable internet connection in our ocean view villa. During the other 6 months we have traveled to 29 countries mostly by RV and have found it fairly easy to find free wifi where ever we have roamed. We find that we can travel the world for much less than living at home.

    Thanks so much for this informative post! I hope it alerts more people to the wonders of combining travel with the digital nomad lifestyle.

  3. Adam Scott Paul Says:

    Here's a great article from Creativity Magazine - Written by Nick Parish where he touches on "The perfect example of a Digital Nomad"

    http://creativity-online.com/?action=news:article&newsId=128061&sectionName=feature

  4. Pinny Cohen Says:

    The odd thing is, the more involved in the web I get, the more terrified I am of traveling and not being by my "home base" to control everything...

  5. thaitourde Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to explain this in a way thats so easy to understand.

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